By Lonna Calhoun, CEM

I’m still grieving the loss of Paseo Del Mar due to the landslide. Our unique vistas, walking path and scenic drive are just gone.  Because I’m a San Pedro resident and a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), I became alarmed when I learned that the Clearwater Sanitation projects’ preferred route would bore through San Pedro and exit in Royal Palms 2000 feet from the recent slide.  My concern is based on my experience in hazard analysis and risk mitigation specifically through 2010-2011 as a consultant for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes where I became interested in landslide activity on the Peninsula.

When I delved into the Draft Clearwater EIR, what I found did not encourage me. I learned that four route choices were in consideration with Alternative # 1 and Alternative # 4 ranking highest and Alternative # 4 being preferred. Alternative # 1 runs under Wilmington and Terminal Island to a site 10 miles south offshore. Alternative # 4 would bore a tunnel 6.9 miles long and 22 feet in diameter through San Pedro and exit at Royal Palms. The Clearwater Draft EIR states:

Alternative # 4 could expose people, structures, or property to major geologic hazards such as landslides, mudslides, or ground failure.”


Alternative # 1   would not cross ancient landslides and would not result in renewed landslide movement during construction. Deep-seated ground failure is considered a low geologic hazard during construction. Impacts would be less than significant.”

Knowing that landslides can be caused by manmade activities the question for me became landslide risk vs. no landslide risk. I considered previous landslide history: 1929 – Sunken City, 1956 -Portuguese Bend, 1974 – Abalone Cove, 1981 –  Klondike Canyon, 1983 – Flying Triangle, 1999 – Ocean Trails Golf Course, 2001 – The Peninsula Center, 2009 – 1800 block of West Paseo del Mar, 2010 – Sunken City Cliff Area, 2011 – Paseo Del Mar.  Most notable is the Portuguese Bend Landslide that was triggered by manmade activities.  It cost $14.6 Mil in the first year, millions since and the land continues to move at about 3 feet per year.


It’s not reassuring that the full scope/cause of the Paseo Del Mar Landslide is still undetermined and the majority of the EIR was completed prior to that event. The EIR states that the Royal Palms site “consists of Altimira Shale”. Our landslide vulnerability is due in part because the majority of the Peninsula is underlain by shale and siltstone units of the Monterey Formation. San Pedro News Pilot reported that Mark Pestrella, Assistant Director of Public Works told visiting officials evaluating the Paseo Del Mar slide, “The whole area is unstable”; “This is what we call coastal bluff landslide”; “The material here, because it does not have high cohesion, wants to slip into the ocean.”

Our community has suffered a devastating loss with the Paseo Del Mar Landslide. Are we willing to take the increased risk of further landslides when a viable alternative exists? Maybe the substantial cost difference between Alternative # 1 ($1,360M) compared to Alternative # 4 ($550M) is a valid enough reason to take the risk, or maybe the environmental concerns of more truck emissions, and increased construction difficulties with Alternative # 1 also outweigh the risk.  These are important considerations and difficult questions. I do support the Clearwater Project and understand the vital importance of improving aging infrastructure but our landslide risks should be fully considered.

San Pedro residents – our voices need to be heard.  Only one poorly attended public comment presentation was made in San Pedro on March 8th and no questions were allowed at that forum. Many residents are still unaware of the potential impact of this project. We need more time for public education and public comment that is due to end on April 10th.


We may decide that Alternative # 4 is the best, even considering the landslide risk, but personally and professionally I’m not convinced.  We may ask that Los Angeles County Sanitation Department mitigate the risk to our community by requesting some compensation to San Pedro. While we all benefit from infrastructure improvements this project will not be used by San Pedro residents but will used by LA County residents who will also bear some of the cost.  Our potential cost is to our coastline and to our neighborhoods that will be subjected to increased noise, vibration, truck volume and pollution. All these issues are important and need more public vetting!


My mind is not closed, I understand that risk is part of progress yet this particular risk feels very personal and too close to home.  I miss Paseo, I love our coastline! If we have to take this risk I hope we do so with all eyes open and with all citizens aware.

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3 Responses to Landslide Risks vs. Infrastructure Improvements

  1. Brendan Jones says:

    I think that Lonna has a very good point and that the meetings of these proceedings need be better attended by the community to see what the long term impacts of the prospected project will have on the humans, the coastline; as well as it’s affects on wild life and fish populations. Money is great but you can’t buy your health- It’s only something you can protect.

  2. joyce zuvich faulk says:

    Great article from a great lady. Keep up the good work!
    We need more people like you!

  3. Anita Belas says:

    Good information.
    This is an issue that involves all of San Pedro.
    Before a final vote is passed, there should be a concentrated all out campaign to educate the city of it’s alternatives to the resolution of this issue which will affect our future generations.
    Will the citizens of today be proud or ashamed of their final decision?

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